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Another great album by the metal masters - 92%

VampireKiller, February 18th, 2008

After "Piece of Mind", Maiden once again returned to the studio to record another masterpiece. The first thing one notices about this album is that there's almost no NWOBHM elements left in the band's sound, well, save for maybe "Aces High" and "2 Minutes to Midnight". One thing that one notices is that the album ends with no one, but two (!) epic numbers whose combined running time is close to 20 minutes. Phew. You wouldn't wanna listen to this if you want simple and short songs. This is the stuff that bands that Dream Theater and Queenr├┐che must've eaten alive at the time they started, and this is why I think Maiden are the forefathers of prog metal. It might be a controversial statement, but I really believe so. But we also have short, or relatively short songs for those who like that. This is also the first time that Maiden had written a song that was openly political ("2 Minutes to Midnight")

The production is a slight improvement over "Piece of Mind". The guitars aren't muddy, but crystal clear and they splice a piece of bread like fucking razors that are extra sharpened. The drum sound is also a bit improved, but not as good as the sound on "Somewhere in Time". Steve's bass is up front as usual, and this time around he has more low end than high end sounds. Nicko provides us with some thundering fills, and Bruce's vocals are as high as they can be

Album opener "Aces High" is probably one of the best and most ultimate album openers in history! It's roaring, fast, aggressive and almost borderline thrash metal! The guitar solos are fucking metal as can be, and so is Bruce's scream at the end. A definite classic!

"2 Minutes to Midnight" is a very groovy number, with a riff reminiscent to that of Manowar's "Metal Daze", albeit played a bit more rapidly. Nicko's fills at the beginning and Steve's bass fills at the end are definitely worth of notice, and Bruce's vocals definitely shine here

And then we come to the only major musical drop on this album, in the form of the instrumental "Losfer Words (Big 'Orra)". This is probably the reason why Maiden hasn't written another instrumental piece yet, but it doesn't absolutely suck. It has some nice Egyptian melodies, that makes it worth a listening or two IMO

"Flash of the Blade" is a bit of a personal favourite. The opening riff is probably the most metallic riff in Maiden's history. It also has quite a galloping feel, and an excellent and interesting instrumental section that replaces guitar solo/solos. It's a shame this song has never been played live

"The Duellists" combines epicness and speed in an excellent way, and it is also one of Maiden's forgotten songs. The only slight downside to this song is that this is the second song in a row with lyrics about fencing, which can become a bit tiresome in the end

"Back in the Village" is the album's second minor musical drop. It doesn't really do anything for me, and in the end it only ends up becoming tiresome for me. Although some of the screams are interesting

And then we get to the title track, which is one epic motherfucker drenched in addictive Egyptian/Middle Eastern melodies. The intro with the beating heart and the scream that later turns into a hysteric laughter sets the mood perfectly. This is probably also Dave Murray's finest hour as he rips out a solo to die for

"Rime of the Ancient Mariner" closes the album with majesty and sheer fucking power! It's Maiden's longest song to date, and could be regarded as a metal symphony if it contained power metal/symphonic metal elements. Bruce's scream after the lines "Sinks down like lead into the sea, then down in falls comes the rain" is his best scream ever captured on tape. The guitar solos also have a very interesting Irish folky feel to them

Buy this album now if you want some fucking metal! Enough said